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COLUMNISTS

Dairy Farmers just don’t need another commission

Arden Tewksbury

What in the world are our dairy friends in Wisconsin and Minnesota thinking of? Recently I received a copy of House Bill HR11 which was introduced in the U.S. Congress by Ron Kind, D-WI, and Congressman Mike Gallagher, R-WI. I remember when congressman Kind supported several worthwhile bills for dairy farmers.

Arden Tewksbury

I fail to see where HR11 will save the majority of our dairy farmers’ pricing problems. Why does anyone need an 18 member commission to study and evaluate the problems that are affecting the majority of our dairy farmers?

I’m looking at a flyer of the financial losses experienced by Pennsylvania dairy farmers for the years 2015 ($500M), 2016 ($600M), 2017 ($475M), 2018 ($600M), 2019 ($400M), and probably for 2020 the losses will be very close to $600M. These types of losses are being experienced in all of our major dairy states. The total losses to dairy farmers across the USA in each of these years would be nearly $12 billion dollars.

So-called dairy experts have been monkeying around long enough in trying to fix the dairy farmers’ losses. I fully realize what is going on with our dairy farmers. I also have noticed that 5,000 dairy farms in Wisconsin went out of business in a 10-year span. But the remaining dairy farmers produced an additional 4.5 billion pounds.

Here is what happened in Federal Order One in 2018. There were 9,941 dairy farmers that produced approximately 10 billion pounds of milk in one year. However, it is amazing that it only took 721 of these dairy farmers to produce 60% of the milk and 8,420 only produce 40 % of the milk.

No, my friends, we don’t need a bill like HR11 to further confuse our dairy farmers. We need a dairy bill that would use the dairy farmers’ cost of producing milk to determine the value of their milk, and we need a supply management program like the one proposed in the Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act which has been called the Spector Casey Bill.

This is the only way we can maintain our true family dairy farms. At the same time we must recognize the large dairy farmers—they are already here. However, something like the Spector Casey bill would allow all existing dairy farmers both average and large dairy farms to exist. We further need the Spector Casey bill to maintain a viable industry. I know the average family dairy farmer thinks we are catering to the large dairy farmers. No, we are not.

Approximately 75% of the milk that is produced is used to manufacture dairy products. The price to produce this milk is the same all across the United States. This means that all dairy farmers are receiving the same price for 70% their milk. The Spector Casey bill basically does the same thing with all dairy farmers receiving the same price with milk used to manufacture dairy products.

With the supply management program in the Spector Casey bill, it would curb the overproduction problem! I am sorry folks, but dairy farmers just don’t have 2-4 years to wait for some kind of solution like HR 11.

Action must be taken now! To wait longer will be a disaster for a majority of our family dairy farmers. I urge the organizations that are supporting HR 11 to take a hard look at the Spector Casey Bill. The dairy farmers are worth saving and in my opinion the Spector Casey bill is the answer.

Tewksbury is the manager of ProAg